From The Couch: Round 14

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on June 17, 2013

Zero Tolerance on Zero Tolerance: Once again the NRL has caved to the vocal minority and insisted it is cracking down on violence. This will no doubt be as enforced as consistently as the obstruction rule and for about as long as the game enforced players standing in front of the kicker at a re-start.

I had plenty of faith in Daniel Anderson when he signed on as referees boss. I am quickly losing my faith as he has once again caved to some silly campaign to “think about the children”.

David Gallop was whacked for being reactionary. The Welsh banker now in charge has hardly been any more proactive.

For years, punters will remember Paul Gallen putting one on Nate Myles’ chin. It will be etched in Origin folklore, as the odd stink in the big game has always been.

Yet now, apparently, we have no tolerance at all. Players will be automatically sin binned. Suspensions will be handed down. This is a new era for rugby league. Blah blah blah.

Rugby league rarely encounters moments of true violence. There is no need for a crackdown. And everyone who has been around the game for anytime knows that this crackdown will last about a fortnight until it is quickly forgotten.

This is nothing but cheap posturising. And it does more damage to the game than any punch ever has, harming its credibility and the trustworthiness and reputation of the administration.

The NSW Blues: It all started off so well for the Blues. Sure, Mitchell Pearce was still in the team and there were a few injury concerns but as a long-time fan of Josh Dugan and Aaron Woods, it was hard not to be thrilled at their inclusion for Origin II. Dugan’s story of redemption seemed a classic rugby league yarn. Woods has long been a favourite of good judges. Daley, rightly, overlooked players like Anthony Minichiello and Willie Mason, types you just know Ricky Stuart would have selected.

But it didn’t take long for it to all go wrong when Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan got on the drink at a Cronulla nightspot with Ferguson, so drunk he was thrown out of the joint, charged with indecent assault. There is no allegations levelled against Dugan but it is no surprise that something ridiculous happened when these two morons were out on the drink together. It is a fairly heavy indictment on Blues management that these two were allowed out on the drink the night before Origin camp. Players shouldn’t be treated like kids but if players with the mental capacity of 12-year-olds are picked, they need to be kept on a very short leash.

Blake Ferguson will now presumably be chopped from the NSW team. He certainly cannot stay after Tamou was over looked. This opens a spot for – fingers crossed – Cronulla’s Michael Gordon. Gordon is a champion player who deserves another Blues jersey and would not be out of place on the wing. If Gordon doesn’t get the gig, let’s hope Laurie Daley keeps up his good selection form and goes with Nathan Merritt.

The Price Is Not Right: St George Illawarra coach Steve Price deserves to lose his job after he allowed the club’s best half in Jamie Soward to walk out of the club. Soward is without question a prickly personality and he certainly wasn’t playing his best football but he did not deserve to be dropped to the NSW Cup and certainly didn’t deserve the ignominy of being released mid-season. The Dragons actually have no genuine halves. Price should have worked with Soward, not just cut him loose. He clearly isn’t up to first grade coaching and the Dragons would be best making a move as soon as possible. The stupidity of the decision is at Blake Ferguson intelligence levels.

Stuck Deep in the Manly Mire: I enjoy watching football at Brookvale Oval. It is just a shame that I have to watch it with Manly fans, who were at their most vile and disgusting on Friday night when spitting, racially abusing and personally attacking Canterbury players and fans. It put a nasty taint on what was a classic game. We all want rugby league played at suburban grounds but those grounds have to be decked out with proper security, not a few fat blokes wandering around the ground having a laugh with the locals.

Bonjour Remi: It is with great excitement that word came out of Bondi that the Tricolours had signed French international and Catalans star Remi Casty. Not since the Raiders had Jerome Guisset play for them in ’99 has an NRL side had a legitimate Frenchman on their books. Hopefully Casty’s appearance will spark a revival of the 13 game in France after the horrors it endured at the hands of the Nazi-sympathising rugby union establishment in World War II.

Meaningless Field Goal Update: Well done to Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson, who was brilliant against the Roosters. Sure, he chased down Michael Jennings in one of the most brilliant defensive plays of the season. But his meaningless drop goal to extend the lead from 10 to 11 in the dying moments was the real key play.

Bennett Builds Geriatric Army: Some like ‘em hot. Other like ‘em old. Ray onBored To Death was afflicted by a condition called ‘Elder Love’. Wayne Bennett may have the same disease. With the oldest roster in the NRL – and the oldest player in Danny Buderus – Bennett has amazingly decided to go older by signing Craig Gower, who has spent the last six seasons trotting around playing rugby union for Italy and some Super League for the Broncos. I certainly don’t have the hubris to question Bennett’s methods but with just 13 wins in two seasons at the Knights, he may be losing his magic. While Gower was solid on debut, he hardly seems like the saviour the Knights need.

Fun Fact #1: Craig Gower, who last week was signed for the Newcastle Knights and played his first NRL game in over six years, is the only player in the NRL who played before the Super League season.

Fun Fact #2: Gower played in the famous 104-minute Tri-Series final. Only three of his teammates have played in the last decade (David Peachey, Solomon Haumono and Luke Priddis) with just Priddis playing after the season Gower defected to rugby union.

Fun Fact #3: Gower has won more games than he has lost in just four seasons: 2000, 2003-04 and 2006.

Rumour Mill: There has been plenty of speculation that Shaun Kenny-Dowall is being shopped around by the Roosters to free up enough space to make a play for Israel Folau. It will all be in vain as Folau has already committed to the Bulldogs. The concern for the Bulldogs is that both Ben Barba and Josh Morris are making noises about leaving with Barba’s family situation perhaps leading him back to Queensland and Morris hoping to reunite with his brother at St George Illawarra. The pressure is building on Anthony Griffin with Kevin Walters believed to have been sounded out, along with former boss Wayne Bennett. Bennett won’t move back though, sources suggest. James Tamou’s position with the Cowboys is far from safe with the Eels believed to be in the mix for the wayward forward. Expect David Williams to sign with Cronulla. All is not well at the Titans, as seen in the resignation of CEO David May. Michael Searle still runs the show up north, the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings.

Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: John Morris, in most circles, is not regarded as a fast player. He has not been blessed with acceleration, elusiveness or even craftiness. He averages just 0.75 tackle breaks a game and is on the verge of turning 33. Yet he waltzed over from dummy-half from 10 metres out nearly untouched, outpacing some pathetic Eels defence before walking through a Fuifui Moimoi tackle. To even call it defence would be an insult to rugby league players everywhere.

What I Love About … Trent Hodkinson: I have always believed in the tough little former Eagle and it has been wonderful to see him repay the faith with a super year after battling a series of injuries that cost him most of 2012 and plenty of the preseason. He had to win the spot back from Kris Keating, who wore the No.7 in last year’s decider, but has not looked back since getting an opportunity. And he played his best game in Bulldogs colours on Friday night with a scintillating performance, setting up the opening three tries and slotting a perfect six with the boot, including the match-winner from 40 out. He has slotted 28 from 30 and has brought organisation and structure to the Bulldogs. He remains unsigned for 2013. The Bulldogs need to see they get his signature soon.

Betting Market of the Week: The first thing that went through Blake Ferguson’s head after being told he was selected for Origin II

$101: ‘I am so lucky to have been blessed with natural athleticism and I will do the best for my state’
$81: ‘I am honoured to represent a state with such a proud rugby league history’
$61: ‘I have really come a long way and I am grateful for all those who helped me here’
$2.05: ‘Doogs got picked … let’s drink some Breezers and find some hot chicks’
$1.50: Absolutely nothing

Power Rankings:
1. South Sydney 11-2 (1)
2. Melbourne 10-2-1 (2)
3. Canterbury 8-6 (5)
4. Sydney Roosters 9-4 (3)
5. Manly 7-5-1 (4)
6. Gold Coast 7-6 (6)
7. Cronulla 7-6 (7)
8. Canberra 7-6 (8)
9. New Zealand 6-8 (10)
10. Newcastle 6-8 (12)
11. Penrith 5-8 (9)
12. St George Illawarra 5-9 (11)
13. Brisbane 6-8 (13)
14. North Queensland 5-9 (14)
15. Wests Tigers 4-9 (15)
16. Parramatta 3-10 (16)

Combo XIII of the Week: Canberra and Penrith famously met in the 1990 and ’91 Grand Finals – and they have shared plenty of players. Here are the best of the Raiders and Panthers.

1. Mark Bell
2. Sandor Earl
3. Chris Houghton
4. Adrian Purtell
5. Nathan Smith
6. Brad Drew
7. Terry Wickey
13. Brett Boyd
12. Nigel Plum
11. Matt Adamson
10. Danny Galea
9. Luke Priddis
8. Richard Cooke

Correspondence Corner: Davey G, I don’t know for sure but I think it was Adrian Lam who was the first Queenslander not from Queensland. The whole Gallen drama is hysterical nonsense. It was Origin and a bit of a blue. The world has gone mad if we are bowing down to the wowsers but that seems to be the case.

Johnno, Lam was very high profile at the time.

Semi Pro, that is a great one-liner. Ricky Stuart fancies himself as Kevin Sheedy … but is more like the hopeless players who call themselves Giants.

Sparkles, how you have handled this much Penguin is beyond me.

The Coaching Crosshairs: Ricky Stuart is not about to get fired by Parramatta. The Eels can’t afford to pay out another coach, particularly one with a long-term deal on a reported $800,000 a season. But heaven knows, they should look at moving him on after the disgraceful “projector affair” where he attempted to build the culture of the club by instituting elements of humiliation and fear. The Eels can’t get much worse under Ricky Stuart. But I will happily state this with total confidence: the Eels will not make the finals under his leadership. It is a mix of mediocrity, anger and a total lack of talent that will produce very few positives.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Ben Pomeroy somehow managed to miss four tackles against the Parramatta Eels. That is like a Burgess boy missing out on a BBQ chicken. Or Ricky Stuart missing an opportunity to blame someone else. 

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 14: Manly-Canterbury, 30-32. On a weekend of tremendous rugby league, the highlight was the golden point classic between arch-rivals Manly and Canterbury. The Bulldogs jumped the Eagles on their home turf, hitting an 18-0 lead in the first half and seeming to have the game well in hand deep into the second when leading 30-12 before a Manly flurry saw the match tied with two minutes remaining. A controversial – yet deserved – penalty would decide the game with Trent Hodkinson booting home the winner from 40 out. A memorable classic, no doubt about it.

Beard Watch: A big congratulations in the beard originality stakes must go to Melbourne Storm winger Sisa Waqa. Waqa, who has already expressed a keen sense of creativity by suggesting his name that looks very much like it should be pronounced “Whacker” but instead is “Wonger”, has pulled a full Abe Lincoln with no moustache to be seen. The Lincoln is a rarity in modern league.

Watch It: It is a great shame that we no longer have the World Sevens to kick off the season. So this week we go back 20 years to the ’93 tournament and the great US Patriots team who pulled off an unforgettable move. Watch it here


Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Regarding what Jamie Soward "deserved".  I highly doubt that you have sufficient inside knowledge to accurately deem exactly what Soward "deserved".  There has obviously been something happening beyond even the keenest observer's eyes.  No player is bigger than an entire club so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Jamie did in fact deserve it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It could only have been against Parramatta that Pomeroy doesnt get a Willie M Medal nomination

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can we give Ferguson the Willie M 3 in every match Canberra participates in for the rest of the season, in spite of him being unlikely to see the field again?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Laurie Daley has only bowed to peer pressure by selecting Nathan Merritt.

    While there can be no dispute about the man's finishing abilities, a winger in origin is not there to catch a ball and dive over from 4 metres out. There has been immense crap spewing from the Bunnies faithful about Merritt getting a run, however they are out by a few years. He is 30 now, a few years past his prime. Does he run as fast as he did when he was 26? Jump as high (a pre-requisite for all NRL wingers), or even hit as hard in defence as he did 4 years ago when he should have been playing Origin?

    By selecting Aaron Woods, we saw Laurie recognise a genuine talent and look to the future by selecting this young gun who will feature in Origins for years to come. By selecting Nathan, he has picked a player who may play Game 3 if NSW win, but does not have a bright Origin future ahead of him. It is like when Dean Young was picked for Origin 5 years after his prime and 12 knee operations too late, or when El Masri got his blue jersey in case NSW got to kick a goal. Merritt is too good a player to only get a game or 2 through sympathy, but we are all aware of the NSW selction process over the past decade. It is a shame he didn't get a run earlier than this, and I hope he has a great game, but for a team who need to build on the future, Merritt was not the right choice at this time. What is Taufua not doing this year that Merritt is?

    As for the game, I will be the guy in the crowd wearing a genuine pink referee's shirt. I am doing this for 3 reasons – I will be supporting the referees and hoping they have a good game, it is pretty funny, and because I have worn my blues jersey to Suncorp for the past 2 years and it makes Brookvale Oval feel like Disneyland to Bulldogs family and fans.

    Davey G

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a Manly fan, it is with wry amusement that we are featuring in the "game of the year nomination" week in week out for close losses in tough games – e.g. against souths, easts, the draw vs melbourne, warriors and now canterbury. I agree all the games have been outstanding, but what a disappointment to miss 2 points in all of them! I look on the bright side and hope this will toughen Manly up for the rest of the season. Cam